By Patrick Duvall
Today, Armando (37) and Scott (44) have an almost idyllic life together: beautiful home, good jobs, great friends, loving families on both sides. They share their good fortune with the less-lucky at every opportunity. They’re in love, and it shows. But things weren’t always this way. This is their story.
Meeting the Family Redux and the Unexpected Catechist
Later in 2008, Armando met Scott’s family for the first time. His parents were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary, and his entire family gathered in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the event.
Bringing Armando home was slightly stressful for Scott. His father was a factory worker and hard-lined Republican, and his mother is a devout Catholic. Accepting their only son’s gayness was a challenge that took decades to overcome. In 1986, when Scott was only 18, his parents found a letter in his bedroom from a friend in which she openly talked about his sexuality. When he got home from junior college that night, his parents could barely look him in the eye. His father told him that he was no longer welcome in their home, and that he had the night to pack his belongings.
Heartbroken, Scott scrambled to find a place to live. When he came back after moving his stuff to drop off his keys, he stood in the kitchen where he had shared so many meals with the people he loved most in the world and attempted to say his goodbyes. His words fell on deaf ears, as his parents refused to say a word to him. In that moment he truly understood what they thought of him, what they thought of his future, and knew he no longer had a home there. Dejectedly he made his way to his car, but before he got there, his youngest sister ran from the house to tearfully embrace him and wish him on his way.
Eventually he began returning home for holidays, and he and his father took a long drive through the woods with a case of beer to hash out their issues. When Scott got his first long-term boyfriend, he brought him home for the holidays, to which his father responded by asking him never to bring one of his “friends” home again. Eventually his family did their best to be inclusive, and Scott did his best to be patient with them. “It took me 18 years to figure out who I was,” says Scott, “and I needed to give them time to kind of process that information too. And they did.”
While he was hopeful that his family had moved past their problems, there was a concern that they wouldn’t react well to Armando. “[Scott] was so nervous when we got out of the car,” Armando remembers. But the family welcomed him with open arms, and barely an eyelash was bat as they navigated between groups of quietly talking people. “I remember meeting his mother, and she was really beautiful,” says Armando. “They’ve always been very friendly to me. Very hospitable. Very respectful.”
Scott’s cousin and her husband invited them to go out later that evening, and they agreed. After the party had wound down, Scott’s mother was getting ready for bed and told them not to stay out too late. As an afterthought, she added that Armando could sleep on the foldout couch downstairs, to which Scott merely grunted. A few minutes later he saw his father talking quietly to his mother in the kitchen. When she came back to the living room where the remaining guests were relaxing she informed Scott that Armando could sleep wherever he liked, and asked him to be careful coming home. It marked a small victory, but an important one.
Around this time Scott also began helping Armando teach catechism. One of Armando’s passions is helping young
people. Growing up, his family didn’t have a lot, but he worked hard, and ended up earning a degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Afterward he made a commitment to give a chance for advancement to as many kids as possible in his neighborhood. “I think that I always felt that my family had so little and we always benefited from something or other, so I wanted to give back.”
So, when he saw an ad in the church bulletin looking for a new catechist, he called the church for more information.
They asked him to come in and asked a few questions, then invited him to a group meeting to discuss it further. When the meeting came, they introduced him as the new catechist, which resulted in many hugs and congratulations. Armando was startled at his unexpected promotion from possibly interested prospective candidate to full-on, official catechist for his congregation, but he took to the role quickly.
No one had an issue with an openly gay man teaching catechism, and when his boyfriend became his teaching assistant, no one brought up any concerns. They worked hard to make a difference in the kids’ lives, and often developed mentorships that extended beyond class.